When Should You Transfer Power of Attorney?

Long term planning can be difficult, especially if it involves thinking proceedings a time in the future when you or a loved one may experience a decline in health or a loss of independence. However, when the proper steps have been taken in advance, any transition in life can be met with more success.

A power of attorney can be an important tool in planning for the future. It can (and should) be signed while you are still healthy, but will ensure that your wishes are met to the greatest extent possible if your circumstances change.

What is Power of Attorney?

Basically, a power of attorney gives someone else the authority to make decisions for you should you become incapable of making them for yourself. These decisions usually include those pertaining to health care and financial matters.

Because the person you choose will have the power to make such important decisions in your behalf, it’s important to designate someone you trust. Common choices include a spouse, adult child, relative, or close friend. Some people choose to appoint more than one person, but if you choose this option you need to decide whether they must always act jointly or if they will be allowed to make decisions independently.

When Should You Sign a Power of Attorney?

Because an accident or illness can happen at any time, it’s never too early to plan for the possibility that you may need someone to make important decisions for you.

Signing a power of attorney as soon as possible is especially important if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Planning ahead in this case allows you to have a say in who will make your decisions. It also allows you to communicate your preferences, which takes away a lot of the guesswork for your family.

Whether you are choosing a power of attorney to prepare for the possibility a time when you might need someone to manage your affairs or if you are facing a condition in which the situation is inevitable, the sooner you take care of this matter the better. Only a person who has the legal capacity to understand the consequences of their actions may assign a power of attorney for themselves.

What this means is that, if you put it off and a situation arises where you become incapacitated, you will have no say in who ends up making your most important decisions for you. And, unless you have already made other arrangements (such as a trust or joint accounts for financial matters) anyone wishing to act in your behalf will have to go through legal proceedings to have a guardian appointed. This may delay the making of important decisions.

In many cases, a power of attorney document is the most effective way to make sure that you are well taken care of and that decisions made in your behalf are what you would have wanted had you been able to make the choices yourself.

Note: Always consult an attorney when you are preparing a power of attorney document.

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